When one of the scribes asked Jesus, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” He said,
“The first is this: hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
It was an act of love by which God created all that exists, and it is his unconditional love that sustains everything in existence. God is love, and he commands that we who are created in his image participate in his love for our own happiness and the completion of his plan for humanity. If humanity is to believe in God, it must see God’s love in those who speak his name.
That’s why we are commanded to not only love God, but to love our neighbor as our self. The love of our neighbor is a testimony of our love of God. Our neighbor is not only the people we like, but also especially the ones we don’t like because our love for them is given out of love for God. Of course, everything begins with God. He has already loved us and gives us the grace to share his love. For this reason, Jesus Christ established his Church and the sacraments which make it possible for us to do the things we can only do with his help.
Forgiveness is Love
One of the greatest obstacles to experiencing God’s love is unforgiveness. Is there someone you have not been able to forgive? In the sacrament of confession, Jesus not only forgives our sins through his priest, but he also gives us the grace to help us grow spiritually. If you have not been able to forgive someone you may begin by asking Jesus to help you to forgive because you know you must. We can’t be forgiven if we do not forgive others. Confession liberates us from obstacles that keep us from experiencing God’s love for us.
We Experience Love at Mass
The most powerful prayer on earth is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the celebration of the final events of salvation, the passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, these events are made present on the altar during Mass, and bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus. Jesus loves us so much that he gives us himself under the appearance of bread and wine. There is nothing on this earth that is more important than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which is a fulfillment of the two greatest commandments, love of God and love of neighbor. During Mass, we adore, worship, love, and glorify the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and ask pardon for what we have done and failed to do as an offense against the love of God and love of neighbor.
Love is Waiting for You
In addition to the powerful presence of God during Mass, Jesus remains with us in the adoration chapel in the tabernacle, or at times in the monstrance on the altar. His love and mercy radiate from his real presence under the appearance of bread. Just to sit in the chapel can be a life changing experience. Years ago, Msgr. Flynn, a previous pastor, told the story of a woman who approached him as he was walking from the Church to the administration building. She said a year earlier, she was experiencing deep depression and was listening to her radio at two o’clock in the morning and heard that our chapel was open 24 hours a day every day. At that time, we were advertising our chapel on secular radio. She said she had been coming to the chapel every day since and now wanted to become Catholic. She entered R.C.I.A. (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) so she could learn more about what she experienced and grow in her faith.
There are many other stories of how individual lives have been deeply touched by the presence of Jesus in the adoration chapel. Fr. Paul, an associate pastor of this parish, has his own story of how his time with Jesus in the adoration chapel was important to his discernment about being a priest.
God loves us in so many ways, but it is especially in his Church that we have the greatest possibility to experience the intimacy with him that can transform us. We no longer think of the love of God as a commandment, but as an invitation to eternal happiness that requires us to share our love, faith and joy, and resources with others.
Deacon Tom Fox, K.H.S. is Co-Founder & Co-Director of Pilgrim Center of Hope with his wife, Mary Jane Fox. The two left their careers after a profound conversion experience and began working full-time in ministry at their parish in 1986. After several years and having impacted tens of thousands of families, the Foxes founded Pilgrim Center of Hope in 1993 as a response to the Church’s call for a New Evangelization. Deacon Tom is an invested member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.